Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Developing a Worldview
By its very nature, Christianity is an exclusive religion. Why? Because Christianity claims to hold the truth that explains all of reality. Consequently, the Christian faith is also a worldview. Nancy Pearcey explains, “To say that Christianity is the truth about total reality means that it is a full-orbed worldview. The term means literally a view of the world, a biblically informed perspective on all reality. A worldview is like a mental map that tells us how to navigate the world effectively. It is the imprint of God’s objective truth on our inner life.”[1] Christianity is not bound to the private sphere of personal beliefs and preferences; it encompasses every aspect of our world and lives.

What exactly is a worldview? James Sire provides a classic definition: “A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world.”[2] Ronald Nash summarizes: “A worldview, then, is a conceptual scheme that contains our fundamental beliefs; it is also the means by which we interpret and judge reality.”[3] As thinking beings, every individual has a worldview. Even if a person is unconscious of it, he or she has certain assumptions and beliefs which provide the necessary framework for one to think, reason, and evaluate.

Worldviews vary from person to person. However, their common core has been somewhat elusive to determine. Different philosophers, theologians, and apologists construct the basic elements of a worldview in various ways. Sire maintains that a worldview comes from answers to seven questions: 1) What is prime reality—the really real? 2) What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? 3) What is a human being? 4) What happens to a person at death? 5) Why is it possible to know anything at all? 6) How do we know what is right and wrong? and 7) What is the meaning of human history?[4] Nash claims that worldviews contain at least five clusters of beliefs, what one believes about: 1) God, 2) metaphysics or ultimate reality, 3) epistemology or knowledge, 4) ethics, and 5) human nature.[5]

As valuable as these kinds of schemes are, Christians will more properly conceptualize a worldview by turning to God’s revelation in Scripture. In the Bible, God reveals himself and his truth through history. The Bible reveals an overarching story of redemption. Encapsulating all of reality, this story establishes the core of the Christian worldview. Therefore, a worldview is essentially a metanarrative, an all-encompassing story about all of reality. With this in mind, Pearcey includes three basic elements in a worldview: 1) creation, 2) fall, and 3) redemption.[6] These fundamentals bring us closer to a clear understanding of the components of a worldview, but Reformed theologians often include four elements in the biblical history of redemption: 1) creation, 2) fall, 3) redemption, and 4) restoration. While admitting her background in studying Dutch Reformed thinkers,[7] Pearcey seems to collapse redemption and restoration into one category. I believe this is unnecessary and potentially problematic. Given the eschatological tension with which we currently live in through this age, it remains important to distinguish between redemption and restoration, the “already” and the “not yet” of God’s redemptive plan.

Therefore, a worldview consists of four fundamental characteristics: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. This understanding is not opposed to other worldview systems—it can actually complement them well. For example, Sire’s questions all fall within these four areas (sometimes in multiple categories): Creation includes questions 1-3 and 5-6; the Fall includes questions 3 and 6; redemption includes questions 4 and 6; and restoration includes questions 4, 6, and 7. Nash’s four clusters can also be reconfigured within this biblical framework. In any case, Scripture provides us with the structure we need to understand the composition of worldviews.

How do Christians apply these insights when engaging our culture? Lord willing, I'll answer this practical question tomorrow.

[1]Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 23. Emphasis in original.
[2]James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 16.
[3]Ronald H. Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 14.
[4]Sire, 17-18.
[5]Nash, 14-17.
[6]Pearcey, 44-46.
[7]Ibid, 26.


posted at 12:00 PM  
Comments (4)

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous William E. Turner Jr said...


When you wrote "Murphy" for fn 6&7 did you mean Pearcey? Or is this another source?

At 9:06 PM, Blogger John said...


Good catch! You were right to recognize that I meant Nancy Pearcey. Somehow, my brain must have switched to remembering the name of progressive evangelical scholar Nancey Murphy (and I don't mean progressive in the positive sense here!).

In any case, I have switched the references in my post. Thanks!

At 1:53 PM, Blogger J. K. Jones said...

Good post. Looking forward to the rest.

I have been helped by worldview models by Norman Geisler, R. C. Sproul, and others, but the longer I think, the more they seem to be oversimplifications. Necessary ones in order to understand, but they do not give me enough detail to witness effectively to those from other religions (I work with a Hindu and a Muslim).

Keep up the good work. I like your sight.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger John said...


I have now posted my follow up: "Worldview Confrontation." I hope you find it helpful as well!

As far as relating worldview confrontation to other religions and belief systems, James Sire's The Universe Next Door includes chapters on "Eastern Pantheistic Monism" and "The New Age." Additionally, while I have not read it yet, Anthony J. Steinbronn's Worldviews: A Christian Response to Religious Pluralism looks promising in applying worldview concepts to other religions.


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